Indoor Air Quality F.A.Q
- 1. How would I know that I have an indoor air quality problem? What would the symptoms be?
- 2. What are some of the root causes of problems with indoor air quality in a building?
- 3. Once it has been determined that there is an indoor air quality problem what would an investigator do?
- 4. Who should be involved in the discussions?
- 5. Once all of these test have been completed, what is the next step?
- 6. After the recommendations have been implemented, is there a way to check that the solutions have been effective?
- 7. What are the repercussions for a building owner if the work is not carried out?
- 8. What is the breadth of the work that Pinchin Environmental has done in this area?
- 9. When conducting this type of survey what standards does Pinchin Environmental work to?
How would I know that I have an indoor air quality problem? What would the symptoms be?
If occupants of a building are experiencing headaches, sore eyes, fatigue, rash, nausea, or irritation of the upper respiratory tract which seem to be more prevalent in the workplace and tend to diminish when they leave the workplace, then you should consider having an indoor air quality investigation.
What are some of the root causes of problems with indoor air quality in a building?
There are several reasons as to why air quality may be compromised. There could be inadequate ventilation, ineffective ventilation, or ventilation systems that have not been maintained correctly. There could be excessive levels of carbon monoxide, wood dust or volatile organic compounds. Every year we sample between three and four hundred different chemicals to ensure that workers are not being over exposed to chemicals in the workplace.
Once it has been determined that there is an indoor air quality problem what would an investigator do?
First of all there would be a discussion of the symptoms: who was affected, where and when. There would be an inspection of the building looking for potential causes and then there would generally be some environmental measures to test the ventilation or to test the specific chemical or physical agents. In the case of mould, we have extensive air testing equipment that can scientifically determine the species of mould, the quantity of mould, and the different types of families of mould. A comprehensive risk analysis on what properties each of these species of mould have on people is then prepared.
Who should be involved in the discussions?
If this is an office building, the building owner or tenant should know that the Ontario Health and Safety Committee has to be involved in the investigation. So if you are the owner of three floors in an office building, even though it is being investigated by the landlord, the tenant's Health and Safety Committee, because they represent the common interests of the employees, have a right to talk to the building manager and to the inspectors to discuss what they are looking for, and also to be given a copy of the final report.
Once all of these test have been completed, what is the next step?
The inspectors would then leave recommendations for improvements that could be made in the maintenance or the design of the ventilating equipment, or the operation of the building. In some cases there may have to be remediation if areas have been contaminated with mould or with other hazardous materials, although mould would be the only thing with indoor air quality that you would actually have to remove to correct.
After the recommendations have been implemented, is there a way to check that the solutions have been effective?
We recommend that a follow-up visit six months after the work has been completed be conducted to ensure that the solutions have in fact been effective. Good management practices would include some proactive indoor air quality steps which could include an independent audit of the maintenance of the building systems and possibly some periodic testing. Discussions could take place with the joint Health and Safety Committee that represents the workers in the building about any ongoing concerns regarding air quality.
What are the repercussions for a building owner if the work is not carried out?
The relationship between the building owner and the tenant is always covered by contract, and the contract generally includes a requirement that the proper space is provided. In the opinion of the tenant, if the air quality is seriously under standard, they can take court action or refuse to pay rent. You may lose a tenant, or you may be sued. Also there are regulations that cover some workplaces that actually require investigations in management for indoor air quality. If this is a workplace that is under federal labour law Ð a bank, a transportation firm, any part of the federal government or crown corporation Ð Labour Canada requires that the building owner manage air quality in a certain way. They have to have a plan for maintaining air quality and also there have to be procedures in place to deal with any complaints that may arise. So there must be proactive steps in place to manage air quality.
What is the breadth of the work that Pinchin Environmental has done in this area?
We have surveyed property where there has been damage to both property and alleged damage to health in buildings as small as a bungalow to buildings that are a million square foot in area. We've also surveyed all of the portables in a school board.
When conducting this type of survey what standards does Pinchin Environmental work to?
We follow the most recent American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers standards, as well as good practice.